Down Among the Ruins

Characters: Dunstan Kordieh

Sometimes life is like a horror show 
Bela Lugosi am I 
And as I stumble through this horror show 
I don't understand why 
Nothing seems to matter 
Nothing seems to change 
Nothing makes a difference 
Be it ever so strange ...
     – "Horror Show," music and lyrics by Greg Kihn

Alisa was still a bit tired from the day before, and she was certainly expecting Dunstan Kordieh to be the same. But she wasn’t prepared to see him shuffle into the room, apparently using all his will to simply force one foot in front of the other. He looked like a marionette with only one string, holding his head up as the rest of his body hung limp.

“Are you ready?” she asked him as he slipped into the seat opposite. At his nod, she looked deep into his eyes —

And was swept into a world she had never seen before. A vast, empty place, broken only by piles of rubble — in some ways it reminded her of the Minbari cities in the wake of the civil war. A chill wind swirled, and she could faintly make out words on it:

“Fool … All for nothing … didn’t understand … too late …. ”

Before her, sitting against the shattered base of a crystal pillar, was Kordieh, his arms wrapped around knees that were pulled up to his chin. Before she could say anything, he spoke.

“What now?”

“Where are we?”

“I live here. I’m sorry about the decor, when I was mad it was much nicer.”

She understood, and forgave the sarcasm. “I need to know what happened to change it. That’s what Turval and Nelier want to know most, now. What happened to shock you out of the delusion? How could anything shock you out of such a deep insanity so fast?”

“I thought it was a vision. Only later, did I find out — it was a slip in time. An alien device, it affected everyone on the ship. I was pulled into my future. Look.”

He handed her the images, with the tentative gentleness of one handing over their most precious and most fragile possession.

In the arms of the woman whose name somehow I know is Maia, wrapped in 
warm blankets, face still red and damp and wrinkled, is a child.  A newborn 
child... my child?  Is this tiny thing, so fragile, truly mine?

"She's ours, Dunstan.  Incredible, isn't it?  She began as the two of us were 
one, and then for nine months, she was a part of me, and now she is a unique 
being all her own."  Maia's head dropped back to the pillow with a weak 
laugh.  "Listen to me.  I've just given birth, and already I'm back to 
philosophizing."
 
The screaming is getting louder, my mind panicking like a drowning man.  
Dead ... I am dead.  My brother is dead, and I was always a part of him ... 
wasn't I?  And all of this--a vision? My hand bears scars I do not remember. 
For a moment, just a moment, I ignore the screams, reach out to gently stroke 
Maia's forehead.  She is a beautiful woman.  I would remember her.
 
"Here.  Hold her for a minute."  Maia holds the bundle ... my daughter ... out 
to me.  I want to scream, I want to run away, I want to do anything to get 
away from this madness....but I do nothing.  I take the bundle, heeding Maia's 
directions on how to handle it.
 
There.  I look down at the face of my daughter, as her head and tiny body rest 
secure in my arms.  She opens her eyes, looking up at me with dark blue orbs 
that are still trying to find their focus.  Then, perfectly trusting and 
perfectly content, she closes them again and sighs back into sleep.  She's ... 
she's so beautiful.
 
"Isn't she though?  Lucinda Gabrielle Grey Kordieh, just like we agreed...."

And then, I am back where I was, splayed out on the deck of the Phoenix, as 
the aftereffects of the explosions ripple slowly through the ship.  Some part 
of my mind has begun a triumphant chant, answering the panicked screams and 
being answered by them.  "You are not dead."

Yes, I am.
 
"You were never dead."
 
Lucius is dead, so I am also dead.

"You are one, and Lucius was another one, separate and apart from you."  No.  
He and I were one....  "As it always was, as Lucius always knew.  You were 
wrong, all this time, Dunstan Kordieh."  No, it can't be. "This is the 
truth."  Everything I know, everything I ever believed, coming unravelled now, 
burning and withering....  "That was your future."  No...no, please...

“When it was over, I came in here,” Kordieh said. “I couldn’t come out. I tried to die in here, even as Katia — Katia Santiago — tried to kill me out there. When I didn’t wake up to die, she came in after me, and nearly lost herself.

“I’m still not sure why she sees so much of herself in me, but she does. I think she’s the only thing keeping me alive right now.”

“She put in a good word for you?” As she asked the question, Alisa could see Katia, pleading with Hale for mercy for Kordieh, even as she was being accused of trying to kill him.

“That too,” Kordieh said, lifting his arms clear of his knees, letting the blood flow freely through the gashes he’d torn there. Alisa recoiled, flinging herself backward and out of his mind, not opening her eyes until she could look at his real face, as he leaned back in his chair opposite. It bore an expression of shame.

“I’m sorry,” he said aloud. “Bad habit.” He sighed and said again, “Very bad habit. That was how Katia found me in my head the first time. Only thing keeps me from doing it for real is the thought she might find me again. I haven’t the heart to disappoint her like that.

“Is there more you need from me? I promise to … behave myself.”

“No, I think I have enough. I’ve never heard of anything quite like you, Dunstan, but it’s pretty clear you weren’t rational then, and you are now. If extremely depressed,” she added. “Given that, I think the Minbari will want to help you.”

He nodded, lowering his head.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” she asked after a few minutes.

“Yes, of course,” he said, struggling to put some expression into the words.

“Then, what’s wrong? What else do you want?”

He looked up then, seeing in his mind’s eye all the survivors of the Phoenix, and behind them all the dead. To all of them he spoke the plea, though only the young woman in front of him could hear it — and she had no more power to grant it than any of the rest. And Kordieh knew it.

“Redemption.”


(C) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.